Distinguishing Trademarks and Copyrights From Patents
I am frequently asked by inventors to explain how patents differ from trademarks and from copyrights. They are fundamentally different. Lets take a quick look at trademarks and copyrights now.
First, lets look briefly at trademarks. A trademark can be a word, logo, design, or even a combination of these. A service mark is similar to a trademark except that it is used to express the origin of services.
Examples of trademarks are Band-Aid Bandages, McDonalds, and Coca-Cola. An example of a service mark is my firm’s tagline, The Idea Attorneys
since it is a registered mark for services. Namely legal services. The KEY is that a trademark identifies the origin or source of a good or service. It is valuable because consumers identify the mark with a particular quality of goods or services.
What about copyrights? Well, Copyrights protect the literary, artistic, commercial or other original expression of an idea. Unlike patents, copyrights do not protect the function of a piece. For example, a copyright may protect the look of a screen of a website. A patent, however, would be more appropriate in protecting the way a website works or the particular methodology it employs.
Finally, lets turn to patents. A patent is a right, granted by the United States to an inventor, to exclude others from making, using, selling and even importing an invention into the United States without his or her permission.
At one time, patents were thought to only protect the classic manufactured “widget”. Patents are now routinely used by banks, real estate firms, stockbrokers, insurance companies, and retailers to protect novel methods of doing business.